Freddie Gray Protesters Sue Baltimore Police Department, State of Maryland and Officers, Allege Abuse

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A demonstrator protesting the death of Freddie Gray holds a sign that reads "Black Youth are Not Thugs." Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images
A demonstrator protesting the death of Freddie Gray holds a sign that reads “Black Youth are Not Thugs.” Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Six Black men arrested during protests sparked by the death of Freddie Gray — who died while in police custody last April — have filed a lawsuit against the Baltimore Police Department, the state of Maryland, and 22 police officers, including former police chief Anthony Batts. The men assert that they were pummeled, abused and stripped of their right to protest, according to the Associated Press.

The plaintiffs include 25-year-old Larry Lomax, who was pepper sprayed by police while attempting to cross the road on May 2 at 10 p.m,. the city’s mandated curfew. A camera captured officers dragging an incapacitated Lomax by the hair. He was then arrested and charged with assault, curfew violation, disorderly conduct and inciting a riot. According to the suit, Lomax spent 20 days behind bars and the state eventually dropped three of the charges against him. He was also acquitted of the disorderly conduct charge at his trial.

Albert Tubman, 45, claims he wasn’t even participating in the protests on the night of April 25. He says he was knocked to the ground by police as he was exiting his vehicle. Per the suit, he was hit also with a baton and later arrested. Tubman was booked and accused of assault, carrying a hazardous weapon, disorderly conduct and rioting. All of the charges were dropped.

Fellow plaintiff, 27-year-old Robert Glass, alleges he was tackled to the ground as he was recording the protests on his cellphone. He was beaten up by police and his phone confiscated. He was admitted to a hospital following his arrest and diagnosed with abrasions on his back, a busted lip, and a pinched nerve. He was also charged with disorderly conduct, rioting and other charges that were ultimately thrown out.

Roosevelt Johnson, 44, Myreq Williams, 21, and Andrew Fisher are among the other protesters arrested that night. They all claim to have experienced abuse and injury at the hands of the Baltimore police.

This isn’t the first time the police department has been sued by citizens for its misconduct and excessive force from officers. The city is prepared to pay a woman $95,000 after an alleged 2012 “rough ride” in a Baltimore police van, according to an article from The Baltimore Sun. Christine Abbott, 28, claims she was tossed in the back of a police van and “maniacally” driven around without the security of a seat belt following her arrest at a party in Hampden.  She was thrust against the side wall of the van, which left her feeling like “a piece of cargo.”

The city of Baltimore’s settlement with Abbott came just before the trials of the six officers involved in the arrest, transport, and death of Freddie Gray. Gray’s untimely death at the hands of the police sheds light on Abbott’s claim of the  “rough ride” she received from the Baltimore police.

Gray, 25, was also injured while he was carried in a police van after being arrested last April. He wasn’t strapped in a seat belt, nor did he receive medical attention for his resulting injuries.  According to Gray’s autopsy,  obtained by The Baltimore Sun, Gray suffered a “high-energy injury” to his neck and spine, mostly likely as the van suddenly decelerated.” His family reached a $6.4 million settlement with the city.

News of Gray’s death and the acquittal of the officers prompted protests nationwide and resulted in the arrest of demonstrators. A new survey conducted by the University of Baltimore revealed that many of Baltimore’s residents feel that they and their relatives have been treated unfairly by police.

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